An 8 year old Amish boy and his mother are traveling to Philadelphia, on their way to visit the mother's sister. While waiting at the train station, the young boy witnesses a brutal murder inside one of the bathroom stalls. Police detective John Book is assigned to investigate the murder of the man, who was an undercover cop. Soon after, Book finds out that he's in great danger when the culprits know about his investigation and hides out in the Amish community. There, he learns the way of living among the Amish locals, which consists of non-violence and agriculture. Book soon starts a romance with the mother of the little boy, but their romance is forbidden by the Amish standards. But, it's not long before the bad guys find out Book's whereabouts.Written by
As stated in the script, Old-Order Amish people do not consider buttons "plain" and don't wear them. However, many times the Amish men are seen wearing button-down shirts or vests. See more »
If we'd made love last night I'd have to stay. Or you'd have to leave.
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The closing shot of John Book driving away in his car passing Daniel provides an initial backdrop for the end credits. See more »
In the VHS version, just after John Book is shot, we see a close-up of his gun and a voice-over from an earlier conversation Book had with the captain. We hear the words: "Who else knows about this? "Just you and me." In the DVD version, we see the close-up of the gun and then it segues to Book's sister waking up Rachel and her son Samuel, minus the voice-over. See more »
I daresay that I would have enjoyed 'Witness (1985)' even more had it remained a conventional mystery thriller. This, perhaps, reflects rather negatively on my film-buff credentials, but the film's opening act mounted the tension so brilliantly that it was a pity to see that suspense slowly dissipate into the background. Such an appeal, however, seems quite groundless where director Peter Weir is concerned; given my previous experience with his work, both in Australian cinema (the classic war picture, 'Gallipoli (1981)') and following his move to Hollywood (the uplifting 'Dead Poet's Society (1989)'), Weir has always favoured emotion and human interaction over the raw thrill of adrenalin-charged action. Even as it stands, 'Witness' deserves to be celebrated for its strong performances, sensitive screenplay and thoughtful exploration of the contrast between the pacifism of the Amish people and the violence and corruption of 1980s mainstream America. The film was Weir's first in Hollywood, after achieving great success with the Australian productions 'Gallipoli' and 'The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).'
Following the death of her husband, a grieving Amish woman, Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis), takes her young son Samuel (Lukas Haas) into the city. It is Samuel's first major venture into the lifestyle shunned by his people, and he is initially awed and excited by all the fresh sights and sounds presented to him. But it doesn't take long for the reality of modern society, corrupted and poisoned by the stench of greed and violence, to rear it's ugly head in the bathroom of a railway station, Samuel witnesses the brutal murder of a city detective, and only he can identify the men responsible. A weary cop, Det. Capt. John Book (Harrison Ford), employs the young boy's help in solving the case, and, when Samuel positively identifies a respected narcotics detective from his own department, Book begins to understand that they've stumbled into something far deeper than anybody could ever have anticipated. Now with a price on his head, Book falls into hiding with the reluctant Amish community, and both parties come to learn a thing or two about the conflicting values of their respective worlds.
Harrison Ford has rarely given a better performance. He's not an actor whom one would typically associate with having a lot of emotional range, but John Book is an intriguingly-subtle character. Note, most particularly, the scene in which Book and Rachel dance in the barn to Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" throughout the entire sequence, Book is continually pausing, contemplating the physical contact that is seemingly obligatory in cinematic moments such as these, and consistently deciding against it. Kelly McGillis is remarkably beautiful as the emotionally-conflicted widow, all the more because her character actively attempts to repress any lingering streaks of eroticism (and also thanks to her Amish attire, which fortunately denied her one of those horrifically-dated 1980s hairstyles see 'Top Gun (1987)'). A crucial benefit of the film's sobering middle act, supplemented by the soft, graceful cinematography of John Seale, is that the audience gradually loses his desensitisation towards violence on film, and so the story's brutal climax is a completely jarring shock to the nerves.
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